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General Nutrition Guidelines

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless
help us to be much more than what we are.” – Adelle Dais

You will feel better, have more energy, and be more likely to continue eating in a healthy way if you diet sensibly rather than suddenly changing your eating habits. Two weeks of all protein and grapefruits is not going to be a successful long term plan!

But eating healthy is more than just planning meals or making good food choices. Eating is tied to our emotions in complex ways. Some of us eat when we’re angry, some when we’re depressed, some when we’re upset or anxious. That’s normal. But if you think your eating patterns are nearly always determined by how you’re feeling, then reach out for help. Chances are, you need to talk to someone about what’s causing those feelings in the first place. When food becomes an obsession (bingeing or starving yourself), it’s a serious medical condition that requires professional care.

How do I know if what I’m eating is healthy? Evaluate your own personal food pyramid at* *(disclaimer below)


Be R.E.A.L. Diet

If you are looking for a guaranteed way to lose weight, you’ve come to the right place!

Be Realistic:
The only weight that will really stay off is weight that comes off slowly as part of a healthy eating and exercise plan that you can use for the rest of your life. Fad diets and pills don’t work in the long run, and can cause serious damage.

Educate Yourself:
Educate yourself about the many other health benefits of good nutrition. You ARE worth taking good care of!

Develop a positive Attitude:
Don’t say “diet”! Rather than thinking about restricting what you eat, or depriving yourself, think in terms of giving your body what it needs to be healthy.

Link up with a medical professional:
Weight is part of your body–so let’s face it, you wouldn’t think of not going to a doctor for other concerns you have about your body. Yet when it comes to weight, many people think they can go to just any “expert” who’s out there trying to make a buck. If you truly need to lose weight, you must see your doctor to ensure that you are doing it safely. Set up an appointment with your physician and/or a nutritionist.


Nutrition Basics

All foods fall into one of the three basic food groups. Your body needs all three to function effectively and maintain its health. Vitamins and minerals are also essential for good health, but they do not provide energy; instead they act as catalysts for many processes in the body. Below is a brief description of the three main food groups and what they do.

Carbohydrates: the body’s primary source of energy; also a source of fiber which aids in digestion. Should be 50-60% of your total diet. Includes: whole grains, cereals and breads, such as wheat, rice, rye, etc., as well as vegetables and fruits, and beans and legumes.

Proteins: provide basic building blocks for body tissue (muscles, skin, hair, teeth, etc.), as well as hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. Should be 15-20% of your diet. Includes: animal sources such as dairy (milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese) and meats (beef, chicken, fish). Also includes vegetable sources such as beans (chickpeas, lentils, kidney), soy products (tofu, tempeh) and certain vegetable combinations.

Fats: a concentrated source of energy, but they also function to carry fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, provide insulation and protection for major organs. Should be 15-30% of your diet. Includes animal fats (meats, butter, milk, cheese) as well as vegetable fats (olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts).


Diet Myths

Why Suddenly Restricting Calories Will NOT help you Lose Weight

We often think that loosing weight means that we have to drastically reduce how much we eat. While it is true that in order to lose weight you have to expend more energy than you take in in calories, a drastic reduction in caloric intake will often have the opposite effect. You need to understand how metabolism works.

When your body uses energy, it is a complex process. The liver converts carbohydrates and amino acids from proteins into glucose to send to your muscles. But in order for the glucose to be used, it must be synthesized into glycogen, and this too requires energy. This is where your muscles “burn” or metabolize fatty acids in fat cells to get the energy required to synthesize glucose into glycogen. The more you use your muscles (or exercise), the more energy is required and the more fatty acids are used. In other words, exercise increases your metabolism and therefore your body’s ability to burn fat.

By restricting calories, you are restricting the energy available, and thus you send the message to your body that it should conserve energy or slow down the metabolic process. If you slow down your metabolism, you decrease the amount of fat being burned. So the best way to lose weight is to combine healthy eating habits with exercise.

The Best Way To Lose Weight Is To Cut Out All Fats.

Wrong! What happens if you don’t get enough fat in your diet?

First, your body cannot absorb fat-soluble vitamins (that is, vitamins A, D, and E which need to be “carried” in fatty substances), and therefore you will be missing the essential functions they perform, such as preventing infection, aiding in healthy skin, teeth, bones, and mucous membranes. Second, you will be hungry and therefore more likely to binge.

Fat is not a bad word! In fact, your body cannot function properly without fats. But not all fats are equally good for you. Saturated fats (found in animal fats such as meat and dairy products) contribute to heart disease by clogging the arteries. Mono- and unsaturated fats (found in vegetable sources such as nuts, grains, and vegetable oils) can actually help lower your cholesterol level and serve as an important energy source.

Do High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diets Really Work?

Ordinarily the body’s fuel comes from glucose (a sugar), which is most easily obtained from carbohydrates and less easily from protein. When the body lacks carbohydrates, protein and fats then become the main suppliers for energy. It can be dangerous when the body is forced to take protein from lean body mass muscles and major organs such as the liver, heart and kidneys.

The other option is to convert fat into energy, and often these diets tell you that you can eat all the fat you want. What happens is that the body starts to break down fatty acids for energy, but in the process, ketones are formed from this breakdown process. These ketones then accumulate (called ketosis). The only way the body has to get rid of these ketones is in the urine, so the body then starts to excrete more water. The weight loss is sudden and dramatic, but can result in dehydration, and the weight quickly comes back on once normal eating is resumed.

What About All The Hype Over Low Fat Diets?

The body needs fat to perform essential functions. In fact, one of the dangers of a very low fat diet is a reduced resistance to infection and poor wound healing. Fats are also necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins.

But not all fats are equally beneficial. Try to avoid high amounts of saturated fats (those found in meats and dairy products), and increase the amounts of unsaturated fats (those found in vegetable sources, such as olive oils and nuts). Saturated fats contain higher levels of cholesterol and can lead to clogged arteries, while unsaturated or “good” fats can actually help reduce cholesterol levels. Cholesterol itself is not “bad”; in fact it is necessary for building cell walls and producing hormones. But, as with fats, there are different kinds of cholesterol. One type (low density lipoprotein, or LDL) clogs the arteries with plaque. The other kind (high density lipoprotein, or HDL) actually helps remove plaque in blood vessels. You can increase your level of HDL by eating more unsaturated fats and also by vigorous exercise.

You Can’t Get Enough Iron In Your Diet If You Cut Out Red Meat

Not true!!! However, it is true that iron in its most absorbable form comes from meats, chicken and seafood. If you are a vegetarian or are trying to cut back on red meat, you can still get the iron you need by eating green leafy vegetables and whole grains, and you can boost your body’s ability absorb the iron from these foods if you combine them with foods rich in vitamin C (for example, citrus fruits or tomatoes). You may be inhibiting iron absorption if you always drink coffee or tea with meals. The tannins in these caffeinated drinks block absorption. Also, don’t take your calcium supplement when you are eating iron rich foods, as calcium also blocks absorption.

Never Eat Proteins And Carbs Together

The enzymes that allow the body to digest proteins and carbohydrates cannot work together. Therefore, never eat proteins and carbs together in the same meal.

Some diets are based on this faulty information and therefore tell you not to eat proteins and carbs together. This is not only unnecessary, but may also lead to your not getting enough of either food category throughout the day. In addition, vegetarians need to combine complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains) with beans to get all essential fatty acids.

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“I drank, because wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things
have learned to swim.” – Frida Kahlo

  • How often do you drink alcohol?
  • Do you drink in a safe environment or with people you trust?
  • Have you ever thought about how alcohol affects your physical and mental health?
  • Are you concerned that maybe you or your friends have a drinking problem?

The fact of the matter is that alcohol is a depressant and a widely abused substance. On college campuses alcohol is extremely prevalent and accessible. Consuming alcohol is your choice, but always remember that alcohol decreases inhibitions, impairs judgment, incites violence, induces sickness, may cause severe health implications, and may result in addiction. When too much alcohol is consumed or when alcohol is mixed with other substances the outcome can be fatal.

Always keep in mind that problem drinkers are not necessarily defined by the amount of alcohol they drink, but rather by the way they use alcohol and its effect on their health, behavior, and relationships. Learn about alcohol facts and assess your alcohol use by reading on.


Women & Alcohol Fact Sheet

  • Women become more intoxicated than men do after consuming equivalent amounts of alcohol even when they have the same body weight. Women have lower water and higher fat contents in their bodies than men, which causes higher concentrations of alcohol to enter a woman’s bloodstream. In addition, enzymes that help metabolize alcohol are less efficient in women than in men.
  • Many studies indicate that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer.
  • Other risks associated with heavy alcohol consumption by women include infertility, failure to ovulate, premature menopause, ulcers, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, and pathologic ovary changes.
  • Women are more susceptible to the influence of alcohol just prior to or during menstruation than at other times.
  • While women tend to stay with alcohol-abusing husbands, husbands are much more likely to leave alcohol-abusing wives.
  • Women more frequently use prescription drugs in combination with alcohol, creating a potentially fatal combination of chemicals in the body.
  • Habitual drinking in women is associated with infertility, miscarriage and stillbirths, as well as fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
  • Women drink primarily in relation to life crises, or to relieve loneliness, feelings of inferiority, and conflicts about their sex role, regardless of their lifestyle.
  • Women have a higher chance of becoming sexually victimized after they have consumed alcohol. A high percentage of attackers admit to being under the influence when they committed sexual assault. Attackers include strangers, intimates, and friends.
  • Alcohol impairs judgement. For example almost 60% of college women who contract STD’s including HIV, have had sex under the influence of alcohol.

Alcoholism is far from uncommon. It is simply that many people, especially women, hide their problem to protect themselves from the social stigma associated with it.


Assess Yourself

  1. Is there a history of alcoholism in your biological family?
  2. Have you experienced two or more blackouts from drinking within the past year?
  3. Have you experienced a personality change since you started drinking?
  4. Have you had more than one alcohol or drug related arrest?
  5. Has someone close to you expressed concern about your drinking?
  6. Have you expressed concern for yourself?
  7. Do you drink to build your self-confidence?
  8. Do you drink to escape from worries or troubles?
  9. Do you drink to escape stressful situations?
  10. Do you feel guilty after drinking?
  11. Do you ever try to drink less or stop drinking and fail?
  12. Do you hide your drinking or the number of beverages you drink?
  13. Do you often prefer to drink alone rather than with others?
  14. Do you drink when you get angry with other people?
  15. Are your grades dropping because of drinking?
  16. Is your school or work attendance dropping because of your drinking?
  17. Is your work performance deteriorating because of your drinking?
  18. Have you ever had memory loss as a result of your drinking?
  19. Do you find yourself drinking to be “the life of the party”?
  20. Do you experience intense mood swings when drinking?
  21. Do you become violent or out of control when drinking?
  22. Do you avoid parties or situations where you know alcohol will not be served?
  23. Do you want a drink the next morning after a night of drinking?
  24. Do you turn to more “obliging” companions when drinking?
  25. Do you binge drink (i.e. drink heavily on weekends after not drinking during the week)?
  26. Is excessive drinking affecting your reputation?
  27. Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of your drinking practices?
  28. Has anyone confronted you about your drinking problem?
  29. Do you often get drunk when you drink, even when you plan not to?
  30. Are you pre-occupied with when you can have your next drink?
  31. Can you control how much you drink?

Your Results: If you answered “YES” to a majority of the above questions you most likely have a drinking problem. If you answered “YES” to a few of these questions you are at a high risk of developing an alcohol problem.Hopefully this self-assessment will help you recognize if you are alcohol dependent or an alcohol abuser.

Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol, while alcohol abuse is controlled but excessive drinking bouts without any dependence on alcohol. Alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disease that must be dealt with. There are many resources available for you to cope with alcoholism and regain control over your life. You may want to start with the Center for Health and Counseling Services on campus.

Information provided by: Women Alcohol: Referral, Information, Outreach, Reinforcement (WARIOR).
The Advancement of Women’s Health Research
Woman to Woman

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“We should be provided with a new body at about the age of thirty or so
when we have learnt to attend to it with consideration.” – Freya Stark

Have you been to the gynecologist for an exam recently, or for that matter, ever?

You can probably name a dozen of reasons why getting an exam is not a priority for you right now. But all women, whether sexually active or not, should get an annual exam starting when they are 18.

A gynecological exam includes an external and internal inspection of your vagina and reproductive organs. The exam detects any abnormal health conditions. Feeling apprehensive about the exam is completely normal. You must keep in mind that an exam is necessary to monitor and maintain your health. Ramapo’s GYN nurse practitioner is available at Health Services for you to arrange an appointment for your annual exam. Put yourself at ease by learning more about the process. It’s a simple, painless procedure. So relax and empower yourself by doing all you can to ensure a healthy future.


Health Services

Visit Health Services on the Ramapo College campus for your annual GYN check up. The GYN nurse practitioner can also test for STDs upon request. Pregnancy tests by urine analysis are also offered at Health Services.Appointments should be made.

Health Services is located at the South Entrance of campus in the Health Services building and can be reached at extension 7536.

The GYN nurse practitioner is in every Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Make an appointment for a GYN exam.

How much:
Costs are $40 for a full exam (including Pap Smear and Clinical Breast Exam). Lab work for Pap Smear, STD tests, and pregnancy tests are additional. You will be billed through the Office of Student Accounts.

If you are a full time student and have not waived your automatic insurance costs you have automatic non-broad based insurance coverage. File your claims for your GYN exam through this insurance. For more details visit Health Services.



Your visit should begin with filling out all the necessary paperwork. You will be asked about your present health status, any past illnesses or operations, family history, details about your menstrual cycle, pregnancy history, present sexual activity, and use of contraception (if applicable).

Prior to the actual examination you will be weighed and asked to give a urine sample. Then you will meet with the practitioner and review your forms and the reason for your visit. This should get you more comfortable before the actual exam. It also makes the practitioner aware of any specifics they should be looking for.

For the exam you will be given a paper drape and asked to get undressed.

The practitioner will take your blood pressure and examine your heart, lungs, neck, and breasts (Clinical Breast Exam) for any abnormalities. Take this time to learn what is the normal way for your breasts to feel for your future self-breast examinations.

To begin the pelvic exam you should get comfortable and lie on the examining table. With your legs spread, place your feet in the stirrup supporters. To help you relax your pelvic muscles, spread your knees as wide apart as possible. Then the external area of the vagina, the vulva, will be examined for inflammation or abnormality.

The next step is the internal exam. This involves a warm and moistened metal or plastic instrument called a speculum to be inserted into the vagina. This gently spreads the vaginal walls apart so the cervix (the lower portion or neck of the uterus) and vagina can be clearly seen. Remember, the vagina is very flexible so this procedure should not hurt.

At this time your Papanicolaou (PAP) smear will be taken. This is also a simple, painless procedure. Cells are gently scraped form the cervix with a flat wooden spatula and a tiny cytobrush. The cells are then placed on a slide for a microscopic exam. This sample will be sent to a lab where a lab technical will examine the cells and determine the presence or absence of any cell abnormality. The results may take a couple of days.

At your request, cultures and smears for vaginal infection of STDs may also be taken at this time.

After the speculum is removed, a bimanual exam is performed. The practitioner will insert two fingers of a lubricated, gloved hand into the vagina. At the same time, their other hand will gently press on the outside of the lower abdominal region. This procedure allows the practitioner to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus. This also allows the practitioner to notice any abnormalities of the fallopian tubes or ovaries.

The exam is now complete.

Remember to take advantage of the opportunity and ask any questions you may have. Always seek consultation if you are experiencing any pain, have abnormal vaginal bleeding, or suspect an infection. Now that you are aware of the procedure it should make the experience easier. Annual GYN visits are incredibly important for you to monitor your health.

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Body Image

“What a desire!…To live in peace with that word: Myself.”
– Sylvia Ashton-Warner

Body Image vs. Body Reality

My butt is so big!
I look so fat in this outfit!
He doesn’t like me because I’m not thin.
The only way I can stay thin is to live on cigarettes, coffee, and gum.
I just ate a piece of cake, so now I can’t eat all day tomorrow.
If I could just lose weight my life would be perfect
Look at her – she’s so thin. I hate myself for being fat

Do any of these sound familiar? How much of your time and energy do you spend thinking about your body and your weight? You are not alone if you spend:

  • more time thinking about what you look like than what you’ve accomplished
  • more time worrying about how to lose weight than how to gain wisdom
  • more time trying to change the shape of your body than trying to change the world

Men and women alike are surrounded by images of unnaturally thin women, by magazines that tell women how to please men and look sexy, and by TV and movies that suggest that women’s main value is as a sexual object.

Why has “fat” become such a dirty word? Why is thinness equated with beauty, success, goodness, happiness? To look at media images that promote unrealistic beauty standards go to *. Are body image issues the same for all women*?

(*disclaimer below)

Check out our section about Eating Disorders.

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Have you been tested for HIV? Have you been educated about HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) do not discriminate against race, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation, etc.

HIV is a virus that enters your bloodstream and begins fighting your immune system. HIV eventually leads to AIDS and your immune system loses its ability to fight infections and other diseases. If you have HIV you are infected for the rest of your life. HIV and AIDS are life-altering and life-threatening diseases.

Are you taking all of the preventive measures you can to avoid contracting or transmitting HIV? Do you practice safe sex? Do you avoid using or sharing syringes or needles for intravenous drug use, tattooing, and piercing? Have you put yourself in high risk situations that may cause STDs including HIV?

By educating yourself you are taking control of your future. Continue to empower yourself with knowledge of HIV and AIDS by reading on. If you or someone you know is HIV positive, there are many resources to help you. Stop by the Women’s Center, Health Services, or the Counseling Center for more information.


 Condoms are on sale at the Women’s Center for 10 cents, in addition to dental dams for 25 cents. You can receive STI and HIV tests at Ramapo’s Health Services by the nurse practitioner.

*Information provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Jersey Women and AIDS Network (NJWAN), and The National Association of People with AIDS.


How is HIV Transmitted?

HIV is transmitted when the virus enters the bloodstream. The virus is carried in blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. HIV can enter the bloodstream through cuts or sores in the skin or the moist lining of the vagina, penis, rectum, and mouth. Some of these cuts or sores are so small they are painless and invisible to the human eye. These cuts and sores allow HIV to enter your bloodstream.

 HIV is Transmitted By:

  • Having unprotected sex – vaginal, anal, or oral – with an infected person. Unprotected sex is sexual intercourse without consistent and correct condom use.
  • Sharing or being stuck with needles or syringes that have been used by an infected person.
  • Giving birth: women with HIV infection can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth. They can also transmit the virus when breast-feeding.
  • Receiving blood: some people have been infected by receiving blood transfusions. However, the risk of infection through blood transfusions has been practically eliminated since 1985 when careful and widespread screening and testing of the blood supply for evidence of HIV became a standard practice.

To Prevent HIV:

  • Don’t allow someone else’s blood, semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, or vaginal fluids to contact or enter your vagina, penis, anus, or mouth.
  • Don’t allow your blood, semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, or vaginal fluids to contact or enter someone else’s vagina, anus, penis, or mouth.
  • Know your partner’s sexual history. Symptoms for HIV do not appear for years. An infected person can appear healthy and not even know they are infected.
  • Get HIV tested every six months if you and your partner are not monogamous, and/or you have had numerous sexual partners, and/or you do not know your past and current sexual partner’s sexual history.
  • Don’t share I.V. needles including syringes used for drugs, tattooing, and piercing. If you do, use bleach to clean your syringes. Rinse them with water after you use the bleach and let it dry completely.

How HIV is NOT transmitted

You CANNOT get HIV from an infected person by any casual contact such as playing sports, working together, shaking hands, hugging, closed-mouth kissing, breathing the same air, sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils and towels, using the same wash water or toilet, swimming in the same pool, or coming in contact with their sneezes, coughs, tears, or sweat. You also do not get HIV from bug bites or by donating blood.


Signs of HIV Infection

In Women:

Always remember that a majority of STDs including HIV do not show any symptoms for years. Anyone can become infected and have no idea because there are no apparent symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial to get tested.

These following symptoms may be caused by STDs other than HIV. It is important that you get STD tested to find out if you are infected so you can receive the proper treatment.

  • Infections (such as yeast infections) in your vagina that won’t go away even after you take medicine for it.
  • Pain in your belly when you don’t have your period.
  • Fluid coming from your vagina. This fluid may be thick or thin, white or green in color, and smell.
  • Open sores or bumps on your genitals (in or outside your vagina or anus)
  • Pain when you have sex.
  • An abnormal Pap smear. A Pap smear is an easy, painless test that can be done in the doctor’s office or in a family planning clinic. Your doctor will notify you if there is something abnormal.
  • Cancer of the sexual organs. You can usually find out about this by getting a Pap smear.

*For more information about gynecological exams see the GYN portion of this page.

 Some Signs Both Men and Women Get:

  • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin that last for many weeks.
  • Fevers that don’t come from the flu or a cold.
  • Losing weight without trying to.
  • Sweating very heavily when you sleep.
  • White, patchy coating on your tongue and in your mouth.
  • Being very tired all the time for no reason.
  • Diarrhea that lasts for many days.
  • Forgetting things that you used to remember easily.

HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet

From the National Association of People with AIDS

  • As of 9/97, 71% of females reported with HIV infection in New Jersey were exposed through heterosexual contact.
  • Women who developed AIDS by the age of 30 were most likely infected while in their teens or early twenties.
  • About 25% of all people living with HIV became infected when they were teenagers.
  • Every hour two Americans under the age of 20 become infected with HIV.
  • Of the reported AIDS cases in 1997 among 13-19 year olds, 49% were female; in the 20-24 year old age group, 38% were female; and in the 25 and older group, 21% were female.
  • 91% of all children with AIDS and 86% of all HIV positive children were born to HIV positive mothers. These numbers refer only to reported cases.
  • African-American women and Latinas over the age of 13 comprise 80% of reported AIDS cases among women in the United States.
  • AIDS is now the third leading cause of death in American women aged 25-44.
  • Of the total cases of HIV infection among women, African-American women accounted for 68%.
  • Women are the fastest growing group of people with HIV/AIDS.

Hotline Numbers

National Numbers

  • National AIDS Hotline: 1-800-342-AIDS(2437) Available 24 hours
  • National AIDS Clearinghouse: 1-800-458-5231
  • National Black Women’s Health Project: 1-800-ASK-BWHP
  • National Latina Health Organization: 1-510-534-1362
  • Sister Connect: 1-800-747-1108
  • Gay Men’s Health Crisis: 1-212-807-6655

New Jersey Numbers

  • New Jersey AIDS Hotline: 1-800-624-2377
  • New Jersey Women and AIDS Network: 1-908-846-4462

Bergen County Numbers

  • New Jersey Buddies: 1-201-489-2900, (800) 508-7577
  • Bergen County HIV/AIDS Consortium-AIDS Resource Center: 201-461-2700.

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Breast Cancer

“The answer is political action… The time has really come when all women
have to get obnoxious and we have to become so obnoxious about the
issue that they do something just to shut us up.” – Unknown

Did you know that one of the leading causes of death among women – behind heart disease and lung cancer – is breast cancer? That is why you should get in the habit of doing breast self examinations. Your best defense against breast cancer is to detect it early.

Breast health should be a priority in every woman’s life. Getting serious about preventing breast cancer means setting up a plan of action.



As a young woman you are not in a high risk group. However, by becoming familiar with your breasts through self exams, you will be more apt to notice changes and identify foreign lumps. Remember, all women are at risk for breast cancer, and your risk increases with age.

If you start now and continue a personal plan to make time for exams, you will ensure a healthier future. Incorporate exams into your routine: in the shower, while getting dressed, or before bed. Encourage all the women you know to start as well. Get to know your breasts!

How To Do Your Own Self-Exam

Perform a breast self examination every month. An ideal time to examine your breasts is one week after menstruation. (If you are not menstruating, pick an easy-to-remember date, such as the first of the month). It is normal for breasts to feel lumpy, uneven, swollen, and tender sometimes, especially before your period. Monitor and learn what is normal for your breasts by performing habitual exams.

Focus your attention on the part of your body from collarbone to bra line, from breast bone to underarm as areas of examination. First of all, Relax…

Step One: Stand before a mirror

INSPECT both breasts for anything unusual, such as discharge from the nipples, an inverted nipple, or puckering, dimpling or scaling of the skin.

LOOK for any changes in shape or contour of your breasts.

  • Clasp your hands behind your head and press forward.
  • Then press your hands firmly on your hips and bow slightly toward the mirror, pulling your shoulders and elbows forward.

Step Two: Examine your breasts (Part 1)

Perform the examination in an environment in which you feel comfortable. The shower may be convenient. Also, you can use powder, lotion, or if in the shower, warm soapy water so that your fingers glide over your skin.

Raise your right arm and check the right breast. Use the three middle finger pads of your left hand. Use three levels of pressure in one-inch circles in an up-and-down pattern. If you prefer, move your fingers up and down in vertical lines instead of circles. Examine vertically from collarbone to bra line, and horizontally from breastbone to underarm. Go over the entire breast and nipple. Gently squeeze the nipple and look for discharge. REPEAT for the left breast.

Continue the examination (Part 2)

Lay on your back, place a pillow under the shoulder of each breast you are examining. This helps arch your back and spreads the surface of your breast. Check BOTH breasts again with one arm at a time raised over your head. Use the same pressure and pattern as used in Part 1.

If you find anything unusual, something that does not seem normal for your breasts, contact your doctor or a health professional right away. Slight differences in the size and the shape of breasts are common. A change in one breast and not the other may indicate a health problem. Don’t be frightened, a majority of breast problems are not cancer, particularly at a young age. Nevertheless, breast self exam is a habit you should develop now and continue for the rest of your life. A woman who has breast cancer can greatly increase her chances of recovery if it is detected early.


Health Screening – Your Plan of Action

    Definition: Self breast exams allow you to become familiar with your breasts so you can recognize any abnormalities. These exams are performed by you to monitor changes if they arise. Learn how to give yourself an exam by going to our link.Age: At age 20 you should start doing self exams on a regular basis.Frequency: Perform a self exam ONCE A MONTH, ideally one week after menstruation. It is common for breasts to be swollen and tender before and during your period. That is why it is recommended that you do the exam one week after your period.What you are being screened for: During your self breast exam you should look for unusual breast symptoms particularly changes in breast tissue. Other symptoms can include swelling, dimpling, nipple discharge, persistent pain, redness, unusual masses, and variation in how breast look and feel.
    Definition: Clinical breast exams are done by a physician or a nurse to check your breast for lumps or anything unusual. It is a procedure similar to the self exam. The health care professional will give you a better idea of what is normal for your breasts. It is your job to make sure that you monitor any changes by doing the self exams.Age: At age 20 you should begin screening by receiving clinical breast exams.Frequency: Clinical breast exams should be done every 1-3 years for women 20 years old to 40 years old. Ages 40 and up should get a clinical breast exam once a year.What you are being screened for: The clinical breast exam detects any unusual breast symptoms and changes in breast tissue. This exam looks for the same symptoms as stated in the self exam.
    Definition: Mammograms are a low dose x-ray of the breasts performed by a certified technician. A trained radiologist will read your x-ray to look for any abnormalities. Mammograms are used to look for lumps and anything unusual that is too small to be felt by hand. Mammograms can detect cancer as small as a pin head.Age: At age 40 you should have your first mammogram, if not requested sooner by your doctor.Frequency: Mammograms should be done once a year.What you are being screened for: Unusual breast symptoms or change in breast tissue.

Ensure your breast health by incorporating this plan of action into your routine. Early detection means a better chance of recovery.


Risk Factors

The following factors put you at a higher risk for having breast cancer:

  • Over the age of 50
  • History of breast cancer in your close family
  • First childbirth after the age 30
  • Never having children
  • Obesity (weighing 40% more than your ideal body weight)
  • Late menopause
  • Start of menstruation before the age of 12.
  • Exposure to environmental contaminants (for more info go to FAQ’s)

To lower your risk for breast cancer:

  • Increase the fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains in your diet.
  • Reduce the fats in your diet.
  • Decrease the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Decrease use of tobacco products.
  • Exercise regularly.

Follow a breast exam screening plan.



A majority of the following questions and answers are from the National Women’s Health Network Newsletter. This publication is highly recommended for finding out the latest issues concerning women’s health. You can check out a copy at the Women’s Center.

A publication that dedicates itself solely to discussing breast cancer is NABCO News ( from the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations). Check out their newsletter or website for more in-depth information on the latest treatments and current issues concerning breast cancer at*

(* disclaimer below)

Recently I received an email saying that antiperspirant is the leading cause of breast cancer. Is this true?

This email is false. Antiperspirants are not a cause of breast cancer. According to the National Women’s Health Network there is no scientific link between the use of antiperspirants and an increased risk of breast cancer. The emails make other false claims that antiperspirants prohibit the body from purging toxins from the armpits and therefore the toxins are deposited in the lymph nodes. Scientifically, this claim is illogical and not relevant to breast cancer.

What role does ethnicity play in the development of breast cancer?

According to the National Women’s Health Network, African American women have an overall lower rate of breast cancer than Caucasian women while they have an overall higher incidence than Latinas. However, focusing on women under the age of 40, studies have found that African American women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than Caucasian women. The breast cancer mortality rate is higher for African American women as well. There may be several reasons for the disparity, including health insurance, routine clinical health exams, mammograms, and late stage diagnosis.

Do breast implants increase my risk of getting breast cancer?

Silicone and saline breast implants obscure breast tissue. Implants are more likely to delay the diagnosis of breast cancer. Mammograms are imperfect, missing approximately 15% of breast cancers in natural breasts. But the error rate is much higher for women with breast implants. Even with specialized mammography, approximately 28% of breast cancers are not visible. Mammography is even less accurate for women with capsular contracture or implants that are very large relative to the original size of the breast. Overall, breast implants interfere with mammography and have numerous health implications.

What is the link between exposure to environmental contaminants and breast cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society the risk factors of age, family history, etc., only account for about a quarter of breast cancer cases. Some scientists and others feel that environmental factors include exposure to contaminants that act like hormones called endocrine disrupters.

Breast cancer is a hormone dependent cancer. Certain chemicals have the ability to mimic or hinder hormones like estrogen and disturb the body’s own hormonal balance. This exposure to increased estrogen may be causing greater risk for breast cancer.

An investigation began on this very topic when numerous women from Long Island reported high rates of breast cancer in their community. The women of Long Island affected with breast cancer may have contracted the disease because of exposure to DDT (pesticides) and PCBs (used to insulate electrical transformers). The investigation continues in search of more evidence for the increasing rate of breast cancer on Long Island. To learn more, search the web and you will find numerous sites on the subject.

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Birth Control

Are you curious about which form of birth control is right for you? Well, you have come to the perfect page. If you are sexually active and want to prevent pregnancy and STDs it is essential that you use some sort of contraception. Your chosen method of birth control should fit into your lifestyle so that it is safe, affordable, effective and accepted by you. Read the birth control chart provided and educate yourself on the different methods. Remember that not all methods of birth control prevent STDs. You may have to use more than one method to prevent both pregnancy and STDs (i.e. the pill and condoms). If you are mature enough to have sex, then you should be mature enough to use contraception every time.


Finding the Right Birth Control Method for You

Deciding what method of birth control to use isn’t easy. Here are some questions to ask yourself. Your answers will help you decide which method is right for you.

  • Is it important that I don’t get pregnant right now?
  • Would an accidental pregnancy be a problem?
  • Do I plan to have children in the future?
  • Is this method safe for me?
  • Do I have any health concerns that would make this method risky for me to use?
  • How does my partner feel about birth control?
  • Can we work together to use this method?
  • Is this method easy to use?
  • Will I use it the right way every time, even if it is sometimes a hassle?
  • How often do I have sex?
  • Do I want a method that is always in my body, or can I pick a method to use only when I have sex
  • Do I need a method that helps protect me from HIV and other STDs?
  • Do I have religious or moral feelings about using birth control?
  • Does this method fit with my religious beliefs?
  • Will I feel embarrassed about using this method?
  • Will my partner feel embarrassed?
  • Will I use it the right way every time, even if I feel embarrassed?
  • How much will this method cost?
  • Can I afford it?
  • How do I feel about touching my body?
  • Do I need to touch my genitals in order to use this method?

Birth Control Chart

From Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. & ETR Associates at*.

(* disclaimer below)

Method: Condoms
What is it?: Fits over erect penis and catches sperm when the man “comes” Also known as rubbers.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: If you are very careful each time: 97%. If you are not very careful each time: 88%. If used with foam: more than 99%.
Health Concerns: None.
Strong Points: Can buy in drugstores. Easy to use, easy to carry. Used only when needed. Latex condoms help protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Weak Points: Must be put on before sex. Some men say that it reduces sexual feelings Condoms with spermicide may irritate vagina or penis.

Method: Depo Provera
What is it?: Artificial hormones injected by a clinician. Stops ovaries from releasing egg each month. Thickens mucus in cervix (opening to womb), so it is hard for sperm to enter womb.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: More than 99%.
Health Concerns: Few serious problems for most women. Should not be used by women with liver disease, heart disease, breast cancer or blood clots. May increase risk of breast cancer.
Strong Points: Doesn’t interfere with sex. Lasts three months. Often decreases bleeding and cramping associated with periods. Safe to use while breast feeding.
Weak Points: Must have injection by a health care provider. May cause heavy, irregular, light periods, or no period at all. May not be able to get pregnant for several months after shots are discontinued. Weight changes, headaches, mood swings, dizziness. No protection against HIV and other STD.

Method: Diaphragm
What is it?: Small rubber cup fits inside vagina over the cervix (opening to the uterus).Used with contraceptive cream or jelly that kills sperm. Must be fitted by a clinician.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: If you are very careful each time-94%. If you are not very careful each time- 82%.
Health Concerns: Few health problems.More bladder infections for some women. Very small chance of toxic shock syndrome.
Strong Points: Can be put in 2 hours before sex.Used only when needed. May help protect against some STD (not HIV).
Weak Points: Some women say it’s hard to put in and take out.Can be messy. Cream or jelly may irritate vagina or penis. Must be left in place for 6-8 hours after sex. No protection against HIV.

Method: Foam, suppository, and film.
What is it?: Made of chemicals that kill sperm.Put into vagina before sex
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: If you are very careful each time-94%.If your are not very careful each time-79%. If used with condoms-more than 99%.
Health Concerns: None.
Strong Points: Can buy in drugstores. Easy to use and carry. Used only when needed. May help protect against some STD (not HIV).
Weak Points: Must be put in shortly before sex.Can be messy. May irritate vagina or penis. No protection against HIV.

Method: IUD
What is it?: Small device put inside uterus by a clinician.Stop fertilized egg from implanting and growing in womb.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: 98-99%
Health Concerns: Increased chance of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).Increased chance of tubal pregnancy. These 2 problems may make it hard to ever get pregnant. Can puncture womb.
Strong Points: Always in place.Doesn’t interfere with sex.
Weak Points: May have more bleeding and cramping during period or spotting between periods.If a women gets pregnant, IUD must be removed. Should not be used by women with multiple partners. No protection against STD or HIV.

Method: Natural Family Planning/ Fertility Awareness Method.
What is it?: Small device put inside womb by a clinician.Stops fertilized egg from implanting and growing in womb. Woman learns to recognize fertile days of menstrual cycle. Can use barrier method during her fertile time (Fertility Awareness Method). No intercourse during her fertile time (Natural Family Planning).
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: If you are very careful each time-91-99%.If you are not very careful each time-80%.
Health Concerns: None.
Strong Points: If used without birth control, is approved by all religious groups.Very low cost. Can improve a couple’s communication. Helpful when ready to become pregnant.
Weak Points: Must chart temp. and vaginal mucus every day.If periods aren’t regular, may not be effective. Women must have cooperation of her partner. Special classes needed to learn. No protection against HIV and STD.

Method: Norplant
What is it?: Tiny capsules of artificial hormones put under skin of arm by a clinician.Capsules slowly release hormones into blood-stream. Stops ovaries from releasing an egg each month. Thickens mucus in cervix (opening to womb), so it’s hard for sperm to enter womb.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: More than 99%.
Health Concerns: Few serious problems for most women.Should not be used by women with liver disease, heart disease, breast cancer of blood clots.
Strong Points: Can stay in for 5 years.Can be removed anytime, then woman can become pregnant right away. Always in place. Doesn’t interfere with sex.
Weak Points: For first few months, may have spotting between periods, light periods, longer periods, or no period at all.Beginning costs are high ($400-$650). Minor surgery required to insert of remove capsules. No protection against HIV or STD.

Method: Pill
What is it?: Pills made of artificial hormones.Stops ovaries from releasing an egg each month. Must be prescribed by a clinician.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: If you are very careful each time-more than 99%.If you are not very careful each time-97%.
Health Concerns: Few serious problems for young women.Very small chance of blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. May cause high blood pressure.
Strong Points: Simple and easy to use.Doesn’t interfere with sex. Less bleeding and cramping during period. Less chance of PID.
Weak Points: May have weight changes, moodiness spotting, more vaginal infections.Must take everyday. May not be a good method for women over 35 or women who smoke. No HIV or STD protection.

Method: Sterilization
What is it?: Tubal Sterilization: permanently blocks woman’s tubes where sperm joins with egg.Vasectomy: permanently blocks tubes that carry sperm.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: 99.9%
Health Concerns: Safer for men than women.Small chance of infection or bleeding after surgery. Tubal pregnancy could occur if operation doesn’t work.
Strong Points: No other method will ever be needed.No physical effect on sexual desire of ability.
Weak Points: Permanent. Cannot change your mind later. No protection against STD or HIV.

Method: Emergency Contraception
What is it?: Commonly known as the morning after pill. Ordinary birth control pills used in high dosages. Treatment is one dose within 72 hours of unprotected sex, and a second dose within 12 hours of first dose. Intended for one time emergency protection and is not as effective as other forms of birth control.
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: 75% effective.
Health Concerns: Will not prevent ectopic pregnancy.It is not safe for women who have had a stroke, cancer, migraines, heart attack, blood clots in lungs or legs, or liver disease. May cause abdominal pain, chest pain, cough, headaches, dizziness, numbness, vision problems, severe leg pain.
Strong Points: Reduces the risk of pregnancy.Can get them from a clinic, doctor, or pharmacist Is not considered an abortion method. Disruption of uterine lining is temporary. Can call hotline for EC Hotline for clinic nearest you @1-800-584-9911.
Weak Points: Intended for only one-time emergency protection. Controversial. Proper doses must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Does not prevent possible ectopic pregnancy. May have temporary side effects. No protection against HIV or STD.

Method: Abstinence
What is it?: Refraining from vaginal, anal, and oral sexual intercourse
Chances of Not Getting Pregnant: 100%
Health Concerns: None.
Strong Points: Prevents risk of getting pregnant or HIV or STD.Most effective form of birth control
Weak Points: Will be refraining from sexual activity.

You can find more in-depth information on birth control and Emergency Contraception (“the morning after pill”) on a highly recommended web-site called Feminist Women’s Health Center *(disclaimer below)

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How do you manage stress? Did you know that you can use stress to your advantage?

Everyone feels stressed at one time or another. Turning stress into positive energy may actually help you become more productive and healthy. The trick to managing stress lies in balancing stress. Stress falls under two categories, positive and negative. Your body can’t tell the difference between the two, and it reacts in the same way, such as a hormone release or an adrenaline rush, an increase in heartbeat and blood pressure, or a rise in your sugar level.

Negative stress with no release may manifest itself in headaches, backaches, depression, anxiety, tense muscles, and even ulcers and heart attacks. Positive stress – when stress is turned into productive energy – motivates people to accomplish and meet life’s challenges. That is why it’s important to learn how to release tension, relax, and use stress to your advantage.


Minimize Stress

Stress is defined as a response by your body to any demand made upon it. Recognize your “stressors” and then analyze your body’s reaction. If your body is responding negatively, figure out a way to calm your nerves. This may mean changing your routine or taking five minutes to sit back and breath. By continually minimizing stress’s effects you will eventually learn ways to balance, alleviate, and turn stress into something positive.

Minimize The Effects

  • Take time for yourself to relax each day.
  • Exercise regularly, after getting your doctor’s approval.
  • Learn to “let go” of things that are outside your control.
  • Learn to adapt to changes.
  • Learn to take action when you can make a difference.
  • Have confidence in yourself and your abilities.
  • Surround yourself with people you enjoy.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, fats, and sugar.
  • Go away for the weekend.
  • Change your daily routine.
  • Give your time to something or someone you believe in.
  • Take up a hobby.
  • Learn something new.
  • Try something new.
  • Open your world.
  • Listen to music
  • Light some candles and enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Day dream for a little bit everyday
  • Set some new goals and take action to achieve them
  • Write a letter to someone
  • Go shopping and treat yourself
  • Pamper yourself for a day

*Some of this information provided by Parlay International.


Great Ways to De-Stress

Try the relaxation techniques recommended below. They can help you relieve physical and emotional tension.

Relax Your Body

  1. Deep Breathing. While sitting, lying down, or standing, close your eyes and breathe in slowly. Let the breath out for a count of 5-10 seconds. Take ten of these super-relaxers any time you feel tense.
  2. Stretching. Practice simple stretches such as the “neck stretch”. Stretch your neck by gently rolling your head in a half-circle, starting at one side, then dropping your chin to your chest, then to the other side.
  3. Exercise. All kinds of physical activity – hiking, running, Tae-Bo, weight lifting, etc-help to reduce stress.
  4. Take a bath or a long hot shower. Ask roommates to allow you at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.
  5. Get a massage. A massage is a wonderful way to get rid of physical tension. Professional masseuses will work on specific areas of tension, such as lower back or neck.
  6. Eat Well. Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Find out if your diet is well balanced, and take steps to eat healthily to help reduce stress.

Relax Your Emotions

  1. Talk. Take the time to talk with a friend, partner, or child. Express feelings you might have been holding in. Listen carefully to your partner. Walking in a quiet neighborhood or park can limit distractions.
  2. Laugh. Go to a comedy club, see a funny movie, or spend time with a funny friend.
  3. Cry. Crying can be as good a release as laughing. If you haven’t cried in a long time, try listening to sad music, watching a sad movie or writing about a sad experience.
  4. Read. A good book is a great escape. Reading a tearjerker or comedy can help release pent-up emotions.
  5. Do something you love. When you enjoy yourself, whether dancing, hanging out with friends, listening to music, you relax your emotions.

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Eating Disorders

“As she was a woman, and as she is an American, she was dieting.” – Katharine Whitehorn


Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a life threatening disorder characterized by self-starvation with significant loss of body weight, refusal to maintain weight, deep-rooted fear of gaining weight, unrealistic body image, and low self esteem.

Signs to look for:

  • 15-20% loss of body weight
  • Unusual eating patterns without medical cause
  • Hyperactivity
  • Restricted Eating
  • Excess Physical Activity
  • Rigid Diet
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Absence of Menstrual Periods
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Fasting
  • Preoccupation with Food

Damage that can be caused to your body as a result:

  • Damage to vital organs such as the heart and the brain
  • Absence of menstrual periods
  • Loss of muscle and body proteins
  • Depressed immune system
  • Loss of calcium from bones, making them brittle and prone to breakage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Abnormal thermoregulation – sensitivity to extreme temperatures
  • Irregular heart rhythms/heart failure

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled binge eating followed by frequent attempts to lose weight by severe methods of purging such as laxatives and/or diuretics, diet pills, excessive physical activity, short term fasting, and self-induced vomiting.

Signs to look for:

  • Preoccupation with food, thinness, and dieting
  • Loss of control leading to food binges
  • Use of laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills
  • Fasting for weight control
  • Compulsive physical activity
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Secretive food hoarding
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, and self-deprecation

Damage that can be caused to your body as a result:

  • Binge eating can cause the stomach to rupture
  • Purging can cause injury to the esophagus due to irritating stomach acid
  • Physical stress of vomiting can cause tearing of the lining of the esophagus causing a rupture which is life threatening and requires immediate surgery
  • Injury to the intestines, particularly the colon, commonly result from laxative abuse. Damage to the lining may lead to ulcers.
  • Kidney and heart complications are often severe due to the loss of vital minerals, such as potassium
  • The acid in vomit wears down the outer layer of teeth resulting in tooth decay

Binge Eating/Compulsive Overeating

Binge Eating Disorder/Compulsive Overeating is an eating disorder characterized by preoccupation with food, eating, and diet. It typically results in excess weight/obesity. The compulsive overeater eats in response to stressful situations, emotional discomfort, and unfulfilled emotional needs.

Signs to look for:

  • Excess weight
  • Focus on food, weight, and dieting
  • Eating in response to emotional states and situational factors
  • Restricting social and physical activities due to weight

Damage that can be caused to your body as a result:

  • People with binge eating disorder are usually overweight and are more prone to the serious medical problems associated with obesity – such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes
  • Obese individuals also have a higher risk for gallbladder disease, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

What To Do if You Know Someone Who Has an Eating Disorder

You can worsen the situation if you…

  • Try to take control of the person’s eating behavior
  • Fight about food. The situation may get worse and the relationship be strained.
  • Use tactics like punishment, rewards, threats, and guilt to change eating behaviors.
  • Blame yourself. Don’t blame yourself for someone’s eating problem, it serves no purpose. It will just cause you added pain and the person with the eating disorder additional stress.
  • Try to become that person’s therapist. Eating disorders are serious problems requiring professional intervention. The advice and support of family and friends, though helpful, cannot take the place of psychological or medical treatment.
  • Try to help by hiding the problem or helping them avoid dealing with the effects of their behavior
  • Avoid talking about the problem.
  • Are not willing to get professional assistance for yourself.

 You can help the situation by…

  • Admitting there is a problem which requires professional attention.
  • Reading up on eating disorders. You will find information to be a valuable tool.
  • Listening and being supportive. People with eating disorders are having serious difficulties and need your help. Listening and caring are more helpful than you may think.
  • Talking to the person about their eating problem. Don’t be judgmental or critical. Just state what you’ve seen and suggest that they seek help.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open. Talk about how you feel, your concerns and fears. Talk as openly and honestly about the problem as you can.
  • Living your own life as fully and normally as you can.
  • Encouraging the person to seek treatment.

Seeking professional counseling and support for yourself. If you are close to someone with an eating disorder, you’ll need to deal with your own feelings about the problem and the progressive changes that occur during recovery.



National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
Box 7
Highland Park, IL 60036
(847) 831-3438*

Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc. (EDAP)
603 Stewart St., Suite 803
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 382-3587
(206) 292-9890 fax*

Family Resources for Education on Eating Disorders (FREED)
9611 Page Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 493-4568*

National Center for Overcoming Overeating (NCOO)
P.O. Box 1257
Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10113-0920
(212) 875-0442*

Overeaters Anonymous (OA)
P.O. Box 44020
Rio Rancho, NM 87124
(505) 891-2664
(505) 891-4320 fax*

Eating Disorder Awareness Guide

(*disclaimer below)

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